Let me start by relating a story:
Zen students are with their masters at least ten years before they presume to teach others. Nan-in was visited by Tenno, who, having passed his apprenticeship, had become a teacher. The day happened to be rainy, so Tenno wore wooden clogs and carried an umbrella. After greeting him Nan-in remarked: “I suppose you left your wooden clogs in the vestibule. I want to know if your umbrella is on the right or left side of the clogs.”
Tenno, confused, had no instant answer. He realized that he was unable to carry his Zen every minute. He became Nan-in’s pupil, and he studied six more years to accomplish his every-minute Zen.
I find this story to be a great example of how we tend to be ‘elsewhere’ in our minds while performing other tasks in our daily lives. How often, for example, when we are in the shower are we really aware of just being there and not a few minutes or hours into the future? Being present can be a tough thing to do these days, and we often wonder how to get better at it. I believe it comes down to a focus on the little things, slowly chipping away the distractions in order to help us experience the bigger picture.
Over the past few years, friends and family had often noticed I locked my car door with the remote two or even three times. When I had a car that beeped the horn upon locking, they would often tell me they knew I had arrived as heard two or three honks! Clearly, I was not in the moment as I left the car, but rather thinking ahead to seeing them or distracted by something else…
A few weeks ago, as I locked the door again for a second time, I realized this could be a good opportunity to practice my own ‘every-minute Zen’, thus adding a bit more mindfulness practice where I knew I was lacking.
So, I started an internal dialogue that went like this: “I am turning the engine off, I am removing the keys from the ignition, I am checking my mirror for cars or cyclists, I am opening the car door, I am stepping out of the car, I am closing the door, I am looking both ways before crossing the street, I am locking the car, I am walking to my apartment building, I am preparing my keys…”
I have been doing this daily, and have found that I’m able to be more present for quite some time afterwards, and in other areas as well. Since beginning this ‘every-minute Zen’ exercise, I’ve been looking for other opportunities to do the same, and have found a few more to practice.
You see, it’s not just sitting meditation that can help us become more mindful : )
My clients and I are in week two of our twelve week ‘At Transformation Challenge’, and this practice of ‘every-minute Zen’ can surely help us avoid some mindless eating.
For those of us who are trying to be better in this regard, coming up with an internal dialogue for each time we eat would be very helpful.
It could go something like this: “I am feeling hungry, I am looking for something to eat, I am feeling like eating something that is not conducive to my goal of being happier in my body, I am choosing to look for something better, I am eating or drinking something that is conducive to my goal of being happier in my body…”
Just as I do each time I park my car, so should this internal dialogue begin every time you feel like having something to eat or drink. Of course, we are going for 85% compliance on our eating, so the same dialogue is not necessary when you have chosen to reward yourself. In those cases, change the “I am choosing to look for something better…” line to something like “I have planned to reward myself and am going to enjoy it to the fullest, without any guilt or shame as I have worked very hard this week to reach my 85%!”
Now, is it necessary to have this dialogue with yourself forever? Absolutely not, as the goal is to increase your ‘every-minute Zen’ in each case until it becomes your new way of doing things. As we find new opportunities to do this, the practices blend together and increase our mindfulness even more.
Now, I’m going to go think if some other instances where I can practice my ‘every-minute Zen’!
There’s great quote from Hagakure (Book of the Samurai) that goes something like this:
“A Samurai always uses a toothpick, even when he has not eaten.”
For the Samurai, projecting a positive image of themselves was of utmost importance. Even when too poor to eat dinner, the samurai would pretend they had, just to keep up appearances. After all, who would want or trust the services of a samurai who was not even able to feed themselves!
This wisdom has an equally important place in our modern lives as well.
Think about it for a bit and I’m sure you will find a way to use it!